Look around your office. Do you see stacks of papers on your desk, bookshelves, credenza—even, Heaven forbid—the floor? Does you computer look like a kite that’s about to take off because you have so many sticky notes attached to it as your reminder not to forget something (of course, after the fifth one, you never even look at them!)?
Now you may be saying to yourself “But I can find anything I need, so what’s the problem?”
Well, studies show that sometimes you can’t. Even if you do find what you’re looking for, it typically takes much longer than it does for people who have a well-organized office.
But that’s not the main reason to get organized. Truth is, having stacks of work around you results in a psychological feeling of overwhelm. A friend calls with a last-minute lunch invitation to hear a great speaker; are you likely to accept with all that visible evidence of work unfinished? Probably not. So you can miss out on a lot of opportunities. (Maybe you would have met your next big client). Worse yet, you never truly feel “finished” at the end of the day.
And what about your professional image? Are your clients and/or employees likely to look around and think “Gee, I wonder if my stuff will get lost?” Let’s face it, the mess is not likely to inspire
confidence in your capabilities.
I know. Some of you are thinking “But for me, out of sight is out of mind; I need to have
all my work where I can see it or I’ll forget about it.” If this sounds familiar, I challenge you
to experiment with cleaning everything up for a month or two and then take a look at the consequences on your productivity.
So you decide to take a day (or two) and get organized. Where do you start?
First, get a box of leaf bags and fill them with all the things you no longer need. This includes
outdated files that don’t need to be archived and out-of-date information. Look first where the dust is and work your way out from there. Next, take a look at your office arrangement. Is your desk where you want it to be? How about
bookshelves, the credenza and other furniture? This is the perfect time to re-think your flow of work and what will be the best arrangement for you. If you want your space to be more open
and inviting, consider
putting your desk in a corner so that when you’re not working, you can
turn and face the people who are visiting without having the desk between the two of you. After doing whatever rearranging makes sense, look at what’s “out” that shouldn’t be. Do you need more file cabinets? Shelves? Storage boxes? Are there changes you would like to make to your filing system? Don’t despair—you don’t have
to take everything out and start over. Just decide on your new system and begin implementing it;
as you use a file from the old system, make it consistent with the new. Now consider where your files are located. What files do you really need in your office? Can some be stored elsewhere in the building? The files you refer to daily need to be within reach while you are at your desk. This would include a “messages” file, perhaps one marked “urgent”, reference lists (phone numbers of employees, menus from places where you order lunch), personal items (your kid’s soccer schedule—maybe the Spurs’ schedule?), perhaps current projects or client files. Items that you are not using daily but are still current can be placed in file cabinets elsewhere in the room. If you just have to have something left out, then place it in a file sorter on your desk or nearby space.
The idea is that you want to arrive at your office every day and see nothing on your desk
Okay, so you clean everything up and get your office looking spiffy. You fixed the problem—but you haven’t resolved it. Your office will look the way it did before in a week or two unless you create a system to maintain the changes. The simplest is to take the last five minutes before you leave your office for the day and put everything in its place. Viola!
One final thing: Once you’ve done all that hard work, why not celebrate by purchasing something for your office that will remind you of your accomplishment? Whether it is a six-dollar mouse pad
or an expensive piece of art, you’ll get a great feeling every time you see it and know why it is there!